Image [cc] paulbast

I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of the Client Alerts and traditional newsletters that law firms package up and send out to clients. Not because they don’t have relevant information, but because they tend to be poorly managed, and clients view them more as SPAM because they tend to be inundated with the same information from multiple law firms… usually all at the same time. I’ve even joked with General Counsels about the number of Client Alerts they get when the US Supreme Court comes down with a major decision. Unfortunately, it seems that firms love creating the client alerts and the practice group newsletters that go out to hundreds (thousands?) of clients each month, week, or day. So, since we seem to be stuck with them, is there a way to make them more relevant, or at least stand out in the crowd? I’ve looked over a “tips” list from Bloomberg’s Speed Desk and have attempted to modify them to fit the client alert/newsletter functionality we use in the law firm environment.

Tip 1: Don’t Send on Heavy News Days
Your “news” will have to compete with all the other news that is out there. Do a little research before sending and determine what are the busy news cycles for the industry your clients are in, and determine what times are lighter news times than others. Here’s an even better tip: If you know it is really important for specific clients to be informed on news that will affect their industry… pick up the phone and call them.

Tip 2: Don’t Send on the :00, :15, :30, and :45’s
Everyone sets up those news feeds to email out on the typical quarter hour increments. Be original, send them on the :07’s or other off-peak times.

Tip 3: Keep it Short and To The Point
You’re competing for the attention of someone very busy. Don’t waste their time. In fact, the Bloomberg tip was to keep it shorter than 65 characters (that’s half a Tweet!!)

Tip 4: Put Your Firm Name Up Front
Let the client know who you are. The idea that Bloomberg uses, that might apply to these client alerts, is that you want the reader to place your firm’s name in relationship to the topic.

Tip 5: No “Cute” Headlines
Keep your headlines to the point without attempting to “bait” clients into clicking on something only to find out it doesn’t really fit the content of the alert. Being cute may trick them the first time, but it will probably end up with them not trusting you, and sending all your other newsletters and alerts straight to the trash folder.

Tip 6: Place Good Contact Information on the Alerts
Know when you are sending out the alerts, have good contact information on those alerts, and be prepared to answer the phone calls or emails if the client responds to your alerts.

Tip 7: Man the Phones
The whole idea behind these alerts and newsletters is to drive business. If you send out an alert at Noon and then you take off for lunch, then you better have put your cell phone number on the alert.

(Note: if you just shook your head at these last two suggestion because you have never had a client respond to a newsletter or alert, then you have bigger problems than any of these seven tips can help you with. If that is the case, then I have only one tip for you: Stop Sending Out Client Alerts and think of better ways to spend your time in order to get your clients’ attention.)

If you’re an academic with twenty-six peer-reviewed articles sitting out there, what’s the next thing you want to do? If you are creative, you turn that into a potential twenty-seventh paper by doing an experiment on them. At least that’s what Melissa Terras from the London School of Economics and Science (LSE) did. Terras wanted to see how others would react to those open-access academic articles located on the University College of London’s (UCL) Discovery platform if she did follow-up blog posts and tweets about them. She wrote about her results in the LSE Impact of Social Science Blog, and it appears that the additional blogging and tweets made a significant difference in the number of downloads of her research.
(note: hat-tip to bespacific blog for finding the article.)

Terras didn’t do what most of us think of when it comes to promoting previous work on Blogs or Twitter (a.k.a. “blatant marketing”), instead she filled in the pieces of the research that didn’t make it into the original publications by giving the background details of what went into the process. Instead of just tweeting “go read my paper Digital Curiosities: Resource Creation Via Amateur Digitisation,” she actually wrote a blog post where she talked about the issues surrounding why she wrote the paper and injected her personality into the blog post (which is usually lacking in those peer-reviewed academic papers.) The results were pretty good and Terras could see that there was value in taking these additional steps. After her first post and tweet about the article, she monitored the downloads to see what happened next.

She blogged about the article, then a couple days later started tweeting about the blog post. As you can see from the graph above, the results show a significant increase in downloads of her article. She then went on to test some other papers with the same process, and left one paper in the series out of the process… it’s pretty easy to see which one got left out.

Although she admits this isn’t exactly going viral, it does help in getting your work out in front of others. Terras’ advice is really two-fold and increasingly important for the academic community:

Ergo, if you want people to read your papers, make them open access, and let the community know (via blogs, twitter, etc) where to get them. Not rocket science. But worth spending time doing. Just dont develop a stats habit.

I’ve actually been thinking about how this relates to the legal community, especially in the large law firm environment that I live in. Try as I might, I can’t talk lawyers into stopping with those rigid and legalese “client alerts” that flood in-house counsel’s email boxes every time Congress passes a law, or the Supreme Court issues a ruling. However, could the approach that Terras did with her academic papers work with client alerts? Could a lawyer that wrote the client alert turn around and actually write a more personable blog post explaining the background of why he or she wrote the client alert (add in some personality, maybe a little humor??) and then tweet about it? Could the results be similar to what Terras discovered with her papers?

I’d love to run an experiment to see. So, if you’re an attorney and you are forced to write one of those lovely client alerts, how about guest posting here about what you wrote, and why you wrote it? Make sure you tell your Marketing Department first so we can get them to monitor the stats for how many downloads you get in the following days after the post and after the tweeting begins. If it works like Terras’ experiment, then maybe firms should rethink how they promote client alerts and start this three-phased process of client alerts, follow-up blog post, and Twitter.